By Rebecca Mason, RDN
I love hearing stories about employees who can articulate a purpose so deeply aligned with company values and goals that they find true joy in their work. From the elementary school custodians who believe their purpose is to give children a clean place to learn, to the nutrition services workers in a hospital who know their purpose is to serve patients nutritious food so they can heal, we see that alignment of purpose improves job satisfaction.
The value of purpose, however, goes beyond job satisfaction alone. Cohort studies have shown that retirees with a greater sense of purpose are less like to develop Alzheimer’s disease. We also see that those with a strong sense of purpose have lower incidence of heart attack and stroke—and are less likely to develop diabetes. This certainly translates into reduced health care costs, but also decreased absenteeism and better health-related behaviors overall.
So, how do you help your team find their purpose? Here are four ways to create a purposeful pursuit of purpose in the workplace.
- Start by sharing a clear and inspiring mission, vision and values statements for your operation. What is it that your company does, what is your purpose for existing and what are you aiming to achieve today and into the future? Values should represent how you ideally work together to achieve your mission and vision together. Having a clear sense of direction can excite and provide direction for your team. When they believe in the mission and vision of the organization, they’re able to better align their actions, goals and personal sense of purpose to help achieve it.
- While developing and understanding your purpose at work is essential for happiness and productivity, don’t underestimate the value of encouraging pursuit of purpose in non-work settings as well. Having balanced pursuit of purpose in all areas of life will prevent burnout and reduced satisfaction in everyone at your organization. Take some time to encourage your team to think about what they want to become both in and outside of work, what their goals are, what they are truly committed to and passionate about. This information is excellent for setting individual goals, and can help uncover strengths that can be connected and utilized for achieving organizational goals as well.
- We’ve all seen that person who is obsessively dedicated to work. We see them sending late night emails and working most weekends. What we don’t see are the missed recitals, forgotten anniversary celebrations and skipped personal development opportunities. Over time, this leads to burnout and role conflict. In today’s workforce, it is essential to encourage balance and parallel pursuit of purpose in all domains to retain talent and promote better job satisfaction. Start by simply talking to your team. “Think about your family. What is your purpose?” Encourage them to make family a priority, to be at the recital, take their aging parent to their doctor’s appointment or use that vacation time to visit family or friends. Your organization will ultimately benefit from happier, more balanced employees.
- Challenge your team to think about their purpose in the community, and share it with others. They may be passionate about church, volunteering with children, fostering animals or riding with a cycling team to raise money for a local charity. You may find that several share interests and you can use these to create team-building activities—such as volunteering at a local food pantry or collecting donations for those in need. This balanced pursuit of passion can spark creativity, enthusiasm and happiness. Just imagine what proud, energized and refreshed employees could achieve both individually, and for your organization.
So remember that purpose goes beyond a job description and the daily grind at work. Extending the value of purpose at home and even in the community can lead to a healthier, happier—and more productive team.
About the Author: Rebecca Mason, RDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management, and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.